Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 6, 2019, claimed that melting sea ice — which scientists warn is a sign of potentially catastrophic climate change — is set to open up new “opportunities for trade” by shortening the length of sea voyages from Asia to the West by as much as three weeks.

Speaking at a meeting of the Arctic Council in Rovaniemi, Finland on May 6, 2019, Pompeo described the Arctic as the “forefront of opportunity and abundance.”

“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” he continued. “This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days,” he said.


“Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals,” Pompeo said.

As well as shortening journey times, Pompeo stressed the “abundance” of natural resources in the region which are yet to be fully exploited. “The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance,” he said.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“It houses 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30% of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore.”

Pompeo made the remarks May 6, 2019, at a meeting of the Arctic Council, which comprises nations with territory in the Arctic Circle: The United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. He warned Russia and China against attempting to exert control over the region.

“Do we want the Arctic Ocean to transform into a new South China Sea, fraught with militarization and competing territorial claims? Do we want the fragile Arctic environment exposed to the same ecological devastation caused by China’s fishing fleet in the seas off its coast, or unregulated industrial activity in its own country? I think the answers are pretty clear,” he said.

Pompeo’s upbeat remarks on the economic opportunities offered by melting sea ice come as federal government agencies report that the amount of sea ice in the Arctic region is rapidly shrinking.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

Ice floes in the Arctic Ocean.

(NASA)

Last week, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said in its monthly report that in April 2019, Arctic sea ice levels reached a record low for that time of year. The sea ice contracted by 479,000 square miles from its average extent between 1981 and 2010 to 5.19 million square miles, the center said.

In its December annual assessment of the Arctic, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that warming air and ocean temperatures were “pushing the Arctic into uncharted territory.”

It said that rising temperatures in the Arctic were impacting the jet stream, which has been linked to extreme weather events, including a series of severe storms that battered the east coast of the United States late last year.

In a study published in the scientific journal Nature last year, scientists said that not only were coastal communities threatened by rising sea levels caused by melting ice, but shrinking ice sheets could accelerate climate change, causing extreme weather and disrupting ocean currents.

Pompeo’s remarks come on the same day that the United Nations in a report warned that climate change caused by humans had played a a role in placing one million animal plant and animal species at risk of extinction in the next decade.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

All Coast Guard National Security Cutters should have ScanEagle drones aboard and available for launch to boost high seas surveillance and aid in drug interdictions and arrests, according to Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

Commanders who have used the ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS, have told him, ” ‘I don’t ever want to sail without ScanEagle again,’ ” Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018, at the National Press Club. “I’d like to see every national security cutter have one on the back.”


For the past 17 years, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center has experimented with various types of UAS, including a helicopter drone and MQ-1 Predator, for cutters but found them unsuited for the Coast Guard‘s dual mission of national security and law enforcement.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

A ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle from ScanEagle Guardian Eight Site sits ready for launch.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Kristine Volk, Resolute Support Public Affairs)

In 2017, the Coast Guard tested a ScanEagle aboard the cutter Stratton on a six-week deployment to the Eastern Pacific. By the end of the deployment, the drone had flown 39 sorties for a total of 279 hours and assisted the crew in seizing 1,676 kilograms of contraband, valued at million. It also aided in the arrests of 10 alleged drug traffickers, according to the service.

The ScanEagle, made by Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, was developed from a commercial version designed to collect weather data and scan the ocean for schools of fish. The Coast Guard version is about 8 feet long, with a wingspan of 16 feet. The drone is sent aloft by a pneumatic launcher and recovered using a hook and arresting wire.

In June 2018, Insitu announced the signing of a 7 million contract with the Coast Guard for the installation of ScanEagles aboard cutters. In a statement, Don Williamson, vice president and general manager of Insitu Defense, said when ScanEagle initially deployed with the Stratton, “We recognized what an incredible opportunity we had to partner with the U.S. Coast Guard to bring dynamic improvements to mission effectiveness and change aviation history.”

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle conducts flight operation over the USNS Spearhead.

The contract was “an incredibly important first step in realizing the Coast Guard’s vision of fleet-wide UAS implementation,” said Cmdr. Daniel Broadhurst, who has served as unmanned aircraft systems division chief in the Coast Guard’s Office of Aviation Forces.

The fate of the UAS plan and other Coast Guard projects largely will depend on the outcome of the upcoming budget battles in the new Congress, Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018.

Currently, “we’re faced with more demands for Coast Guard services than fiscal resources,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

After 75 years, members of 101st Airborne share ties to Battle of the Bulge

Seventy-five years ago in Bastogne, Belgium, German soldiers captured American Pfc. Marold Peterson of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division. Peterson escaped from the work camp where we was held prisoner, only to be captured again and killed by Hitler Youth.

Sgt. Travis Paice, the great-grandson of Peterson, said it is surreal to be in Bastogne where Peterson lived his last moments.

“Maybe he was standing right where I stood,” Paice, a soldier with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said.


Paice is one soldier with family ties to the World War II Battle of the Bulge who participated in the 75th anniversary commemoration ceremonies and parade. Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, is another.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

US infantrymen crouch in a snow-filled ditch, taking shelter from a German artillery barrage during the Battle of Heartbreak Crossroads in the Krinkelter woods, December 14, 1944.

(Pfc. James F. Clancy, US Army Signal Corps)

Jones’ great-uncle Ed Jones was a Sherman tanker with the 10th Armored Division during World War II. While Jones is unsure of his great-uncle’s rank, he heard stories growing up about his service from his father and uncle. During the Battle of the Bulge, three of Ed Jones’ tanks took extreme damage.

On his last time evacuating a Sherman tank, he took shrapnel from a German stick grenade in his leg and was captured as a prisoner of war. He was missing for about four months until a Canadian HAM radio operator intercepted a message from the Germans including the locations of POWs from both American and Allied forces.

“It’s amazing to feel like I am walking in his footsteps,” said Jones of walking through the streets where his great uncle served. “To see Bastogne and where he was is a sobering feeling.”

On December 14, 2019, American and Belgian soldiers, along with members of the Bastogne community and World War II veterans, marched in a parade through the town center. Guests of honor, including Prime Minister of Belgium Sophie Wilmes, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the US Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gidwitz threw walnuts from the balcony of the Bastogne City Center into the crowd.

The nut throwing, or “Jet de Noix,” commemorates Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s famous response of “Nuts” when petitioned by the Germans to surrender.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

Anthony C. McAuliffe, left, and then-Col. Harry W.O. Kinnard II at Bastogne.

(US War Department)

Both Jones and Paice said they felt a great sense of pride knowing their unit has lineage to World War II and the Battle of the Bulge.

Paice had the opportunity to fly his great grandfather’s flag at the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne. He plans on gifting the flag to his grandfather, who is also a veteran.

Before arriving in Bastogne, Paice was given documents by the Army which provided an account of his great grandfather’s capture. He brought these documents with him as a reminder of what his family had endured. While Paice said the documents do not go into much detail, it is just enough to be harrowing.

“I never knew him, and my grandfather never knew him, but to get, somewhat, a little bit of closure was a little surreal,” Paice said.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, center, meets reenactors at a community event at the Bastogne Barracks in Bastogne, Belgium, December 14, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Erica Earl)

Paice said the most emotional part of his great grandfather’s history is knowing that American soldiers liberated the prisoner camp Stalag IX-B, also known as Bad Orb, the day after he was killed in his effort to escape.

According to Army documents, soldiers in that prison were starved, with many men weighing only between 70 and 80 pounds when they were rescued.

As soldiers lined up to prepare for the parade, there was a mixture of snow, rain and harsh winds as temperatures dropped, but participants acknowledged that was nothing compared to what Soldiers who had gone before them endured.

Jones said if he could say something to his great uncle, it would be “thank you.”

“Thank you for paving the way for us and giving everything for our values, our freedoms and our allies’ freedoms,” Jones said in heartfelt appreciation to both is late great uncle and veterans of World War II.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The hilarious reason Winnie the Pooh is banned in China

Many Chinese citizens responded in a peculiar way to Feb. 25, 2018’s announcement that the Chinese Communist Party may get rid of presidential term limits — by posting images of Winnie the Pooh on social media.


The pictures target Xi Jinping, who could now stay in power for decades and potentially paves the way to one-man rule that China has not seen since the days of Mao Zedong.

Also read: China’s president is kind of a big deal

The joke is that Winnie the Pooh, the fictional, living teddy bear made by English author A. A. Milne, looks strikingly similar to Xi, supposedly because both of them look somewhat chubby. Critics of the Chinese leader often use the cartoon character in a derogatory way.

 

The meme has been circulating around Chinese and Western social media since Xi became president in 2013, and has been out in full force since the CCP’s announcement.

One image showed Pooh Bear hugging a large pot of honey, with the words “Wisdom of little bear Winnie the Pooh” in Chinese and “Find the thing you love and stick with it” in English. Another image showed a screenshot from an episode that shows the bear wearing a crown and other royal regalia.

China censors Winnie the Pooh

The memes have provoked Chinese censors to clamp down on the circulation of the cartoon bear on social media apps like WeChat and Sina Weibo.

It appears the censors are going beyond just taking down pictures of Winnie the Pooh. Entire messages relating to the topic of Xi as a dictator or negative talk about him serving for life are being deleted minutes after being sent to friends or posted online.

Related: 11 classic banned books written by veterans

“I’ve posted this before but it was censored within 13 minutes so I will post it again,” one micro-blogger wrote according to What’s on Weibo, an independent news site that reports on Chinese digital and social media. “I oppose to the amendment of the ‘no more than two consecutive terms of office’ as addressed in the third section of Article 79 of the Constitution.”

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin)

China Digital Times and Free Weibo have reported that some of the phrases that Chinese censors are scrutinizing include “I don’t agree,” “election term,” “constitution rules,” “Winnie the Pooh,” and “proclaiming oneself an emperor.”

“Migration” and “emigration” are also subject to heavy censorship.

More: The 25 most ruthless leaders of all time

State censorship is not new in China and censors have gone after Winnie the Pooh images in the past. The country has also notably gone to great lengths to make sure the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, in which hundreds of unarmed Chinese citizens were gunned down by the Peoples Liberation Army, are not discussed — either in person or on the internet.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How troops and vets can get free Tampa Bay Rays tickets

Tampa Bay, Florida is an important part of our country’s great defense strategy. It’s not always a highly visible part, but it’s an effective part.


Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
You might have heard of it at some point.

But whether you’re stationed in Tampa Bay, got out of the military in Tampa Bay, or just happen to be passing through Tampa Bay, the local baseball team wants you to stop by. So much so that the Tampa Bay Rays are giving away free tickets to active duty troops, retirees, and honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
Yes Coasties, this means you, too. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

A lot of organizations have a salute to service program, but the Tampa Bay Rays are offering something special. You can pick up two complimentary tickets to any of seven Monday home games, with three possible additional bonus dates and special ticket offers throughout the season.

In case Tampa Bay isn’t your home team to root for, the possible games are with teams from around the country, from Cleveland to Los Angeles and Baltimore to Texas. Just go to the Rays Salute to Service game listings and pick them one week before the scheduled game date.

If you’re the forgetful type, you can have the site notify you when the tickets become available. So if you’re stationed in the area and want to come root for home team or are planning a trip through the area and want to have truly unique Tampa Bay experience with a friend or loved one, the Tampa Bay Rays will love to host you.

The Rays are one of Major League Baseball’s most fun teams – after all, this is the team that set their batting order to 8-6-7-5-3-0-9, for funsies one time. They didn’t win the game that night, but a lot of people learned how numbers are assigned to baseball’s defensive positions, and Tommy Tutone got stuck in every one’s head one more time.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
Now it’s in my head. And yours too. Admit it.

This isn’t the first time the Rays offered free tickets to the military-veteran community. The team has been offering them for years, and also offers free tickets for first responders and teachers (but they get honored on different days, of course).

So grab a few seats, a cold one, and some peanuts and make a trip to the old ball game. Go Rays!

MIGHTY CULTURE

These may be the top 6 finalists for the new Space Force logo

Anyone with a passing interest in the military, politics, or current events has probably heard by now that there’s a U.S. Space Force on the way, just as soon as Congress can shell out eight billion dollars for the effort. But lack of actual funds didn’t stop Vice President Mike Pence from making the announcement about the Space Force. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that once the President decides to do something, the Trump Administration moves quickly to do it.

The White House is already building a Space Force culture. It’s starting with a logo for the new branch and it wants a handful of special Americans to help choose the new look.


There were few reports that a political action committee related to President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign sent out an email blast just hours after VP Pence’s announcement. The email blast from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee featured six images that looked more like NASA mission patches than military branch logos.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

The email itself was signed by Brad Parscale, Campaign Manager for Donald J. Trump for President, 2020. It encouraged recipients to prepare to “buy a whole line of gear” related to the Space Force and the logo they were asked to pick. One of the logos was a direct rip of the current NASA logo, while another implied that Mars would be the eventual goal of the new Space Force.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

These logo possibilities may or may not have anything to actually do with the real Space Force. But the email blast was apparently sent to members of the news media, including ABC’s Justin Fishel and CNN’s Jake Tapper, and did imply that President Trump personally wanted input on the Space Force logo.

But only Trump’s campaign donors can officially vote for a logo via the email sent directly from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

Meanwhile, in a less official capacity, Bloomberg asked eight leading industry designers to design Space Force logos for the military, and what they came up with was decidedly different, blending traditional military patches, corporate logos, nostalgia for pop culture, and even President Trump himself.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
popular

Why diplomatic immunity doesn’t work like it does in movies

It’s the perfect scenario for an action film: the villain from a foreign country goes on a crime spree and, because of international law protecting them, there’s nothing anyone but the protagonist can do about it. Except diplomatic immunity does exist.


It treats diplomats (and their families) as an agent of their host country, meaning that if you cite a diplomat for a parking violation, you’re giving their entire host nation a ticket for a parking violation. In an extreme scenario, if a South African diplomat were to be arrested for heading a cocaine smuggling ring in America, then the American diplomat in South Africa would be in danger.

 

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
But it’s still not much of a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

(Courtesy Photo)

Any serious crime committed would require action from the diplomat’s nation. In 1997, a high-ranking Georgian diplomat drove drunk, caused a five-car pileup in Washington D.C., and killed a 16 year-old girl. He was protected under diplomatic immunity when he was pulled over for a previous DUI, but when it happened again and an American girl was killed, the nation of Georgia waived all immunity and he was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

This is because a nation is bound by diplomatic ties to act. Because the diplomat was acting in lieu of the Georgian government, murdering an American fractured American-Georgian relations and could be considered an act of war. Which lead to the waiving of diplomatic immunity, expulsion, and eventual imprisonment of the diplomat.

The benefit of diplomatic immunity that gets used the most is that diplomats don’t need to personally pay fines. If a diplomat were to be pulled over for speeding, as is extremely common in Germany (there actually are speed limits on the Autobahn,) the fine is paid for by the diplomat’s country.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
All foreign diplomats get special license plates that usually stop them from being pulled over anyways.

It also works for other smaller infractions like failure to pay rent. Many officials from Zaire refused to pay in 2002. Their diplomatic immunity prevented them from being evicted and the landlord couldn’t do anything about it. It was after their return home that the country of Zaire paid their debt.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 foreign films where the US military are definitely the bad guys

When America has a national enemy, the U.S. media is pretty good at falling in line (no matter what anyone tells you – just look at the buildup to the Iraq War). So whether the enemy is the Germans, the Japanese, the Germans again, Communists, or Terrorists, you can be sure there will be a whole slew of TV shows and movies about America’s inevitable triumph over evil.


Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

Unless you want the villain to be China.

But other countries make movies and other countries need a bad guy. While most of the world is just fine with the United States, there are some countries that are very much not okay with America. So America is the bad guy, and the U.S. military is very much the bad guy.

1. Momotaro’s Sea Eagles

In March 1943, Japan finished its first feature-length animated film, Momotarō no Umiwashi, or Motomaro’s Sea Eagles. If that year sounds familiar and seems important but you can’t quite place it, that’s right during the middle of World War II in the Pacific. The U.S. had just routed the attempted Japanese invasion of New Guinea at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, but the war was far from over. This children’s animation retells the story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese perspective.

American sailors (sometimes Bluto from Popeye) are depicted as cowardly and drinking on the job as they slide to their deaths at the bottom of the harbor.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

2. Silver Powder

No one did propaganda like the Soviet Union. This is another example of outright propaganda filmmaking that sets out to make Americans look like greedy industrialists who will kill anyone if it makes their bank accounts bigger. The main character’s last name is Steal, and he discovers the ultimate radioactive superweapon that quickly starts a fight between gangster defense firms who want to possess it. A corrupt capitalist shoots Steal and takes his weapon to sell himself.

3. The Detached Mission

The Detached Mission was the Soviet answer to American anti-USSR action movies like Red Dawn, Rocky IV, and Rambo II. A group of Russian Marines have to stop a crazed American military officer from starting World War III by launching the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This Army officer is a Vietnam vet who suffers from intense flashbacks and is hell-bent on avenging himself on the USSR. As the CIA tries to stop an arms limitation summit at the behest of defense contractors, the Soviet Union has to neutralize a U.S. nuclear launch site.

4. The Host

After a U.S. military officer in South Korea orders the disposal of a lot of formaldehyde by pouring it into a sink, those chemicals find their way into the nearby Han River. The result is that a river monster of epic proportions gets really pissed and starts rampaging. The United States starts to fight the monster using a substance called “Agent Yellow” (get it?). This was a movie so unintentionally anti-American that North Korea praised its depiction of the U.S. military.

5. Mr. Freedom

This one hurts. No one could have lampooned America and its pro-American culture better than an American expatriate. It might be the most anti-American movie ever made. It even makes fun of how the U.S. stereotypes its enemies by depicting them as one-dimensional jokes (the Chinese character is an inflatable dragon). The basic gist is that an American superhero tries to destroy the country of France to keep it from becoming a Communist country. At the end of the ridiculous movie, he destroys himself. As ridiculous as this movie sounds, it’s actually really good.

6. Valley of the Wolves: Iraq

Valley of the Wolves: Iraq might also be the most anti-American movie ever made. It was made in 2006 at the height of the Iraq War, and was one of the most expensive Turkish movies ever made. The film highlights pretty much every mistake the U.S. made during the occupation of Iraq, especially the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal. The film is an action movie about a group of Turkish commandos going into Iraq to take down a U.S. military officer who was in charge of what Turks call the “Hood Event.” In 2003, American troops captured a group of Turkish troops, covered their heads with hoods, and interrogated them. Spoiler alert: they kill him.

Bonus: the film features Gary Busey as a Jewish doctor who harvests organs for the ultra-rich people in New York and Tel Aviv.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Afghanistan got its bizarre panhandle

For a country that hasn’t been conquered since Tamerlane rolled through, Afghanistan has sure been shaped by all those who tried to control it. Today, there’s even a little strip of land in the country’s northeast that forms a panhandle – strange for such a small strip considering the major powers who fought for control of the area.


Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
Good luck getting there.

It was those major powers who created the panhandle in the first place. Today it borders China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. But during a period of time in Afghan history known as “The Great Game,” those countries were parts of China, the Russian Empire, and the British Empire, respectively.

It was Britain’s way of containing a quickly-growing Russia.

A treaty between Russia and Great Britain in 1873 made the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between the Russian Empire and Afghanistan’s northern border. In 1893, the Durand Line became Afghanistan’s border with British India. A mostly independent Afghanistan was a buffer zone between the two growing empires.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
The red line through the center represents the British-imposed Durand Line.

The resulting narrow strip of land became known as the Wakhan Corridor.

It’s an area even more ungovernable than the rest of Afghanistan. At elevations as high as 17,000 feet in some areas, the area is inaccessible to most Afghans – and even the Taliban and the Soviet Union were unable (or unwilling) to fully move into the area.

The form of Islam practiced in the Wakhan is very hostile to the Taliban, a further explanation of the lack of central interference from Kabul.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
A valley in the Wakhan Corridor.

The 3,500-mile area used to be a route along the Silk Road and was traversed by great historical figures like Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. People there still depend on trade, but this remote part of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province sees little in the way of tourists or even Afghan visitors.

Today the area has few roads, no government, and is home to roughly 12,000 nomadic and semi-nomadic people.

Articles

The US is sending some BRRRRRT! to Putin’s backyard

US European Command announced August 4 that 10 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, an MC-130J Commando II, and approximately 270 Air Force personnel will deploy to Estonia to train with allied air forces.


“We are strong members of the NATO Alliance and remain prepared with credible force to assure, deter, and defend our Allies,” Maj. Gen. Jon K. Kelk, Air National Guard assistant to the commander, US Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa, said in an August 4 EUCOM press release. “When we have the opportunity to train with coalition air forces, everyone benefits.”

The airmen and aircraft will deploy from bases in the US and Europe to Amari Air Base from August 4 to 20 to participate in the Forward Training Deployment, or FTD.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
A-10C Thunderbolt II with the 188th Fighter Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard conduct close-air support training Nov. 21, 2013, near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Haseltine)

The A-10s are from the 175th Wing, Warfield Air National Guard Base, Maryland. The MC-130J is from the 352nd Special Operations Wing, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom.

While deployed, the A-10s are scheduled to train with Finnish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Finland, Spanish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Estonia, and multinational joint terminal air controllers in Latvia, according the release.

Known officially as the Thunderbolt II and more commonly as the Warthog, the A-10 entered military service in the late 1970s and has flown in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

The twin-engine aircraft is designed to decimate tanks, vehicles, and other ground targets with its GAU-8 Avenger, a 30mm seven-barrel gatling gun, and up to 16,000 pounds of ordnance, including Mk-82 and Mk-84 bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and laser-guided munitions.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
US Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs. USAF photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier.

The Air Force has made several attempts to retire the decades-old aircraft beginning in fiscal 2015 in an effort to save money, but congressional opposition has forced the service to reset the date for the earliest possible retirement of the A-10 to 2021.

The MC-130J Commando II is designed to fly clandestine, or low visibility, single, or multi-ship low-level air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft.

It can perform infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions for special operations forces in hostile territories.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Enlisted pilots could fly in combat for the first time since WWII

The Air Force is mired in a deepening pilot crisis, with a shortage of approximately 2,000 pilots from the active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve at the end of fiscal year 2017 in September.


The Air Force has pursued a number of policies to correct that shortage, including quality-of-life improvements, opening positions for retired pilots, and drawing more active-duty pilots from the National Guard and Reserve. The force also has the option to recall retired pilots, but says it will not avail itself of it.

Now it appears the Air Force is considering a step it has long avoided: training enlisted airmen to be combat aviators.

A new six-month pilot-training program will consist of 15 officers and five enlisted airmen, Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, chief of the Second Air Force, told his commanders in a November 30 email, seen by Air Force Times.

Currently, the only Air Force personnel eligible to be pilots are commissioned officers, and achieving officer status requires a four-year college degree.

“Enlisted volunteers will be pioneers in innovating Air Force aviator recruitment, selection, and training processes by demonstrating the potential of non-college graduates to succeed in a rigorous pilot training environment,” Leahy, whose command is responsible for basic military and tactical training for Air Force personnel, wrote in the email.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

Leahy added that the training program would provide data to Air Education and Training Command commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast about “the potential for enlisted members to train to fly modern combat aircraft,” according to Air Force Times. The email was obtained by former airman Steven Mayne, who runs the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page.

The email said there was a December 15 deadline for airmen to volunteer online and that those picked would start training on February 15. Those who succeed would take solo flights in T-6 single-engine turboprop training aircraft.

Air Education and Training Command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday confirmed the email to Air Force Times and said the command “chose to focus on flying training because of the urgency involved with the enterprise.” She added that the program was meant to examine how airmen learn and would look at technology that could lead to better and faster learning.

However, she also downplayed enlisted airmen’s proximity to the pilot’s seat, telling Task Purpose that, while the training program was started because of the need for pilots, the “study is not looking at changing our pilot force, but rather it is exploring new ways to effectively and efficiently deliver training.”

Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

“The plan for this six-month program is to explore the technology available to produce a student, similarly-skilled to a UPT graduate,” Holliday told Task Purpose, referring to the Air Force’s yearlong basic aviation course, Undergraduate Pilot Training.

Officers who pass the six-month course will get pilot’s wings and move on to specialized training, while enlisted airmen who pass will return to the specialty they were selected for during basic training, Holliday said, adding that they could have their flight hours applied to a civilian pilot’s license.

‘The natural progression’

The Air Force said at the end of 2015 that it would begin training enlisted airmen to fly RQ-4 remotely piloted aircraft — part of an effort to meet demand for unmanned-aircraft pilots. At the end of 2016, two master sergeants became the first enlisted airmen in 60 years to complete solo flights during initial flight training.

The Air Force continued that training this year, with 30 enlisted airmen (chosen from 800 initial applicants) starting training for the RQ-4 Global Hawk in March. Outside of that initiative, however, the force has shown little interest in training enlisted airmen to fly manned aircraft.

Despite that reluctance, Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth Wright told Air Force Timesearlier this year that many enlisted men have pilot’s licenses and that enlisted airmen piloting manned aircraft appeared to be “the natural progression.”

Wright also started a study at the end of the summer to explore what benefit the Air Force would get from bringing back the warrant officer program, which some have said would be a way to properly recognize and compensate enlisted pilots for their expanded duties as fliers.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

Air Force officials have pointed to a number of reasons for the force’s pilot shortage including quality-of-life issues, recruitment by private airlines, as well as strain created by three decades of ongoing operations around the world.

The shortage of qualified fliers has also been exacerbated by a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline, caused by a combination of factors like force drawdowns, longer deployments, and budget restrictions.

Air Force leaders have zeroed in on budget woes as a particular problem.

Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said in November that he worried, “if we cannot move past sequester in its current form, we’re going to break this force.”

This month, with the window closing on budget legislation, Goldfein again sounded alarm about the worst-case scenario for the Air Force: A budget deal that doesn’t lift spending limits put in place by the Budget Control Act.

Such an outcome would “devastate” the Air Force, Goldfein told Air Force Times, adding to problems created by the last budget sequester and hindering the service’s ability to keep pilots in their planes and, in turn, in uniform.

“If you’re not preparing for or executing combat operations, then you’ll likely stop flying,” Goldfein said. “Currencies will lapse, qualifications will cease, and we’ll potentially look back on the timeframe of having an only 2,000 pilots short [force] as a dream.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force’s new handgun

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System to security forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.

The M18 replaces the M9 Beretta, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.


The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability to increase shooter lethality.

A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein)

“This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, 37th Training Support Squadron armory noncommissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. “The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”

“The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting,” said Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JB San Antonio-Lackland. “It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before.”

So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to JB Andrews, Maryland, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JB San Antonio-Lackland, two regional training centers (Guam and Fort Bliss, Texas), Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. All security forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.

“Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, Guardian Angel/(pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements program manager. “Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how US snipers handle the ‘life-or-death’ stress of their job

There are few “safe” jobs in armed conflict, but certainly one of the toughest and most dangerous is that of a sniper. They must sneak forward in groups of two to spy on the enemy, knowing that an adversary who spots them first may be lethal. Here’s what Army and Marine Corps snipers say it takes to overcome the life-or-death stress of their job.

“As a scout sniper, we are going to be constantly tired, fatigued, dehydrated, probably cold, for sure wet, and always hungry,” Marine scout sniper Sgt. Brandon Choo told the Department of Defense earlier this year.

The missions snipers are tasked with carrying out, be it in the air, at sea, or from a concealed position on land, include gathering intelligence, killing enemy leaders, infiltration and overwatch, hunting other snipers, raid support, ballistic IED interdiction, and the disruption of enemy operations.


Many snipers said they handled their job’s intense pressures by quieting their worries and allowing their training to guide them.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

A Marine with Scout Sniper Platoon, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, uses a scout sniper periscope.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)

“There is so much riding on your ability to accomplish the mission, including the lives of other Marines,” a Marine scout sniper told Insider recently. “The best way to deal with [the stress] is to just not think about it.” An Army sniper said the same thing, telling Insider that “you don’t think about that. You are just out there and reacting in the moment. You don’t feel that stress in the situation.”

These sharpshooters explained that when times are tough, there is no time to feel sorry for yourself because there are people depending on you. Their motivation comes from the soldiers and Marines around them.

Learning to tune out the pressures of the job is a skill developed through training. “This profession as a whole constitutes a difficult lifestyle where we have to get up every day and train harder than the enemy, so that when we meet him in battle we make sure to come out on top,” Choo told DoD.

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

A sniper attached to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment takes aim at insurgents from behind cover.

(US Marine Corps photo)

‘You are always going to fall back on your training.’

So, what does that mean in the field, when things get rough?

“You are going to do what you were taught to do or you are going to die,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran Army sniper, told Insider. “Someone once told me that in any given situation, you are probably not going to rise to the occasion,” a Marine scout sniper, now an instructor, explained. “You are always going to fall back on your training.”

“So, if I’ve trained myself accordingly, even though I’m stressing out about whatever my mission is, I know that I’ll fall back to my training and be able to get it done,” he said. “Then, before I know it, the challenge has passed, the stress is gone, and I can go home and drink a beer and eat a steak.”

Choo summed it up simply in his answers to DoD, saying, “No matter what adversity we may face, at the end of the day, we aren’t dead, so it’s going to be all right.”

Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals

A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)

Do the impossible once a week.

Sometimes the pressures of the job can persist even after these guys return home.

In that case, Sipes explained, it is really important to “talk to someone. Talk to your peers. Take a break. Go and do something else and come back to it.” Another Army sniper previously told Insider that it is critical to check your ego at the door, be brutally honest with yourself, and know your limits.

In civilian life, adversity can look very different than it does on the battlefield. Challenges, while perhaps not life-and-death situations, can still be daunting.

“I think the way that people in civilian life can deal with [hardship] is by picking something out, on a weekly basis, that they in their mind think is impossible, and they need to go and do it,” a Marine sniper told Insider. “What you’re going to find is that more often than not, you are going to be able to achieve that seemingly-impossible task, and so everything that you considered at that level or below becomes just another part of your day.”

He added that a lot more people should focus on building their resilience.

“If that is not being provided to you, it is your responsibility to go out and seek that to make yourself better.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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